Renter’s and Homeowner’s Guide to Flooding

Floods are very common in the US and can be deadly if you’re not prepared. Individuals and families should always know where local waterways are and what the community’s flood action plans are in the event of major flooding so they know how best to handle the situation when and if it arises. Protecting your home, whether you rent or you own that home, is also important and flood insurance may be needed to help you do that.


Know Your Flood Terms

There are many different kinds of flooding. Overland flooding is the most common kind of flooding in the US and this is when the waterways designed to hold water, such as rivers or man-made drainage systems, become overwhelmed with the amount of water due to the amount of rainfall or snowmelt that has accumulated. This type of flooding can also occur when a levee or dam has been breached. A flash flood is one in which a wall of water, usually accompanied by the sound of rushing water, comes crashing in. The water can carry debris, such as rocks and mud, as well as remnants from anything that was in its path before it got to you. This type of flooding occurs most often when a levee or damn has failed, but it can also occur within just minutes of rainfall beginning if the rainfall is excessive.

  • Glossary of Flood Terms: These terms are ones that all renters and homeowners should be aware of.
  • Flood Warning Terms/Technical Terms: This site from the US government specifically describes the terms used when issuing flood warnings.
  • Flood Terms: This extensive list describes terms related to flooding and also gives their acronyms.
  • Collection of Flooding Terms: The terminology defined here is extensive, but will give renters and homeowners alike a great starting place when looking up flood terms.
  • FloodSmart Glossary: The National Flood Insurance Program’s glossary is one of the most all-encompassing ones available.
  • National Weather Service – Flood Terms: The National Weather Service issues flood watches and warnings. These definitions are good to know for any renter or homeowner.
  • Flood Terms: Many of these definitions are helpful to anyone who may experience a flood or even just a flood warning at any particular time.
  • Flood Warning Terms: Specifically defined for kids, these flood warning terms are necessary for all to understand in the event of an actual flood warning.
  • Flood: Know Your Terms: Driving while the area is flooded is dangerous. It is even dangerous while there are flood warnings. This guide defines those warnings.
  • Flood Terms and Glossary A-Z: Not only does this guide give a comprehensive definition for each term, but there are also many links to outside government sources that would be of help when preparing for or cleaning up after a flood.

What to Do Before a Flood

You should do your research to find out if you live in any of the following areas: downstream from a dam, behind a levee, near water of any kind, or in low-lying areas prone to flooding; However, flood risk changes due to a number of factors and just because you’ve lived in a low-risk area for a long time doesn’t mean that area is still low-risk, so be sure to check with the proper authorities to see what flood zone you are in. This will be based on changing topography, new construction, flood control measures that may have been installed or upgraded, and many other variables. Standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, so you may need to acquire flood insurance based on your risk for flooding. You should also have an emergency kit that is stocked with items that can be used for many different types of emergencies and all members of the household should be aware of what to do in the event of an emergency. The furnace, electrical panel, and hot water heater should all be elevated if you live in an area prone to flooding. Check valves should be installed to keep water from coming in through drains, and basement walls should be sealed will compounds that are waterproof.

  • Before a Flood: This handy guide even gives you a handy action plan to fill out and have in your home so that all members of the household can be on the same page should a flood occur.
  • Prepare Now! Get Ready for Flooding!: While dramatic, this article stresses the importance of preparing for flooding.
  • BEFORE a Flood: This guide by a county in Washington stresses the importance of planning ahead and being ready to act quickly.
  • Flood Preparation: This site links to many documents that are helpful in preparing for flooding, including setting up a disaster kit and how to help children cope with the stress of a flood.
  • What Can I Do Before a Flood: A simple guide, this site can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to flood preparedness.
  • Before a Flood: Another site that has multiple links to outside sources that can help you prepare, this guide can get you on the right track.
  • What to do Before a Flood: If you are looking for a bulleted list of things to do when preparing for a flood, then this is the guide for you.

What to Do During a Flood

If flash flooding is imminent and warnings have been issued, immediately move to higher ground and have a battery operated radio with you at all times. This radio should float or be water resistant. However, if flooding evacuations are taking place, be sure to secure as many belongings as possible inside the home. Bring in items from outside so that you can lock them up. Anything electrical or essential should be moved to a second story or to the attic. Do not unplug anything electrical if you are standing in water or if you or your clothing is wet. Turn off the power and all other utilities at the main switches if possible or told to do so by evacuators. When leaving your home, do not walk through water more than six inches deep, and if you don’t know how deep it is then walk around it. Do not drive through flooded areas as the vehicle may get swept away and can hit other people or items.

What to Do After a Flood

Even once the flood waters have receded, there are still many dangers. It’s important to stay out of the way of emergency personnel unless they have requested your assistance and you are willing to help. Listen for additional warnings, since more flooding many be occurring close by and it may still be a danger to you. You should only return to your home to assess the damage once you’ve been cleared to do so by emergency personnel. Do not walk or drive through standing water as it could be very deep or electrically charged due to downed power lines. Do not go into any building surrounded by water, or if it still has water in it. Be careful when entering buildings, as buildings may have shifted off of their foundations or their foundations may have crumbled with the flooding and it may make them unsafe to be in.

Once you have arrived at your home, you can assess the damage and call your insurance company or a company licensed to deal with home flooding. Fix any sewage systems as soon as possible to avoid health problems and assume all water coming to the home is unsafe to drink until told otherwise. Drink bottled water or boil water for safety. Be sure to disinfect anything that got dirty as it may have been contaminated with sewage. Dry anything that got wet completely to avoid mold and mildew. Do not turn on the power to your home until it is dry enough to do so. Contact the American Red Cross or your local emergency manager for aid in repairing your home or contacting people who can help you.

  • Returning Home After a Disaster: Cleaning everything should be step number one. But if you’re wondering what to do after this, this guide can help.
  • Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood: The Red Cross has been helping people after disaster for years, and they can help you as well.
  • After the Flood: This guide is a very comprehensive one and covers everything from personal hygiene to fixing your home.
  • Septic Systems – What to Do After the Flood: Dealing with a septic system after the flooding has receded can be a whole new problem. This guide can get your started.
  • Agricultural Issues After a Flood: Livestock and plant life can both be affected by flooding for years afterward. Knowing what’s to come can help you prepare.
  • Floods: Flooding can impact children and families in different ways than it can individual adults. Knowing how to deal with the traumatic experience can help make it easier on both child and parent.
  • Cleaning a Basement After a Flood: Cleaning a basement can be difficult depending on the type of basement but it is necessary to ensure the health and safety of all those in the home.
  • Dealing With Mold Problems After a Flood: Mold can be a real problem after a flood due to the high amounts of moisture in everything from carpets to walls. Dealing with it as soon as possible can reduce the amount of mold dealt with later.
  • After a Flood – The First Steps: Getting help with the first steps can help to reduce stress felt by the entire household so that the clean-up and repairs can begin both physically and emotionally.